Hilary or Barack – a dilemma of brands

Before I start, I have to thank Michelle Miller who promises me that her new book “The Soccer Mom Myth” due out in March, (make mental note to add to my Amazon “aShop”) will bring all this into focus, for prompting me to have my say before she has the last word! 


I’ve never really understood the US voting process and occasionally when I take time to study it and finally think I have it sussed, immediately something comes out of left field just to prove to me that I don’t. 

One of the things that threw me a loop recently was the suggestion that part of the process, when there’s a close result, involves a bunch of people getting together (over cocktails I guess) to decide that if the voters knew a few things that the politicians knew, but were keeping secret, they would have voted differently, throwing the result out of the window and just deciding the winner themselves.  So I must have bad information there because were it true it would make Zimabwe a great democracy!

However, one thing I do know for sure is that the current Clinton, Obama tussle is a brilliant illustration of consumer dilemma and the role of brand.

Politicians are brands of course, have no doubt about it and like any other brand they have an inherent promise.  In fact, in the case of politicians the promise is rather more up-front that with most other brands, which really just serves to emphasise the importance of what is the challenge for most brands – delivering the promise.  I always emphasise to my clients that the key to business success is to make a brand promise that apart from being relevant to your market is also realistic.  In other words, something that you might actually be able to achieve.  I guess that doesn’t influence politicians that much, but, I’m sure we’d all agree, it should.

In the case of the Hilary and Barack show, both are making big promises, which, to most people are attractive.  The difference, as Hilary was at pains, between sobs, to point out the other day is that one of them (and it wasn’t her) didn’t have the experience to deliver.  The other side to this particular coin however is that while Obama doesn’t have a record of delivery failure, Hilary is part of an establishment (I’m not talking parties here just politics) that has delivered successive disappointments, without flinching and without apology for as long as I can remember.

In a land that probably needs change more than most, Hilary’s strength is that she has the experience and ring-craft that, if we believe her when she says that the rest of the stuff that has prevented her cohorts from delivering in the past isn’t going to deflect her, means she might just pull it off.  Barack’s is the fact that he hasn’t – which means he’s as likely to succeed as he is to fail.

If the two were two tins of beans standing on a supermarket shelf – a new unknown brand and an old, but not particularly notable one – which would you choose, the familiar one that you knew was average, or the unknown one that just might be the best you’ve ever tasted?  Personally I’d go for the new one, but I’m not sure the American electorate, when the chips are down, is really up for a leap of fate.  The problem with that conclusion is that it means its all down to the packaging designers!  I guess there’s no change there either then!


4 responses to “Hilary or Barack – a dilemma of brands

  1. Phil

    I think your last paragraph more or less hit the nail on the head.

    “If the two were two tins of beans standing on a supermarket shelf – a new unknown brand and an old, but not particularly notable one – which would you choose, the familiar one that you knew was average, or the unknown one that just might be the best you’ve ever tasted? ”

    The skills of the marketing people are needed because otherwise the public wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the candidates at all.

    This is why many people today are not participating in the democratic process, because they can see that underneath the branding and the promotional efforts, in fact both candidates are the same, both are making empty promses and both are out to line their own pockets and those of their sponsors.

    Best wishes


  2. From the photo you show, I’d say Hillary looks better (of course, she’s in better light, better mood, the foreground, and Barack has his face all scrunched up).

    She also has the added benefit of being attacked so much by the right.

    I’ve heard of this Barack guy for a while too (seen his blog and all), but don’t know of anything he’s actually done. Hillary’s exploits are repeatedly promoted by websites such as Newsmax on a regular basis.

    Personally, of all the electable candidate, I like Huckabee the best because he says what he thinks, even if some people (and sponsors) might think it sounds wacky.

    He’s like a see-through packet, and not a concealed tin. (I guess so is Giuliani, but he’s after his sell by date.)

  3. Interesting post, Phil.

    I’d say that Clinton is also benefitting from her “brand-name recognition”. What we’ve seen is that when Obama has the time and money to conduct retail politicking, people that get a chance to see him up close and personal like what they see, and swing his way. Clinton however is ahead in the big markets of NY and California, primarily because those markets are harder (too expensive) for Obama to introduce himself to in the allotted amount of time before Super Tuesday. It’s a shame really – I think Obama could be one of those presidents that comes along once every 50 years or so…but it’ll be hard for him to get the nod.

  4. Thanks Adam

    To someone like me who’s not in the US your comment provides a very interesting perspective. Makes sense.

    I hope your success with VibeAgent.com continues.

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